The start of a new year is a great time to try new things and turn interests into hobbies. DJ’ing has become more and more accessible in recent years thanks to the uprise in controllers and applications. So if you’re looking to get into DJ’ing in this new year, what would be the best purchase in terms of value for money and performance features. Let’s find out!
It may depend on what you already own…
DJ’ing used to be about owning thousands of records or CDs before then playing them on thousands of pounds worth of equipment. Thankfully for beginners, those expensive hurdles are now gone. These days you can start with something as simple as your phone and a free application! That said though, the experience isn’t the best when just using your finger so we always recommend using actual physical hardware. Thankfully these start from as little as £79!
DJ’ing with Mobile Devices
If you already own an iPad or iPhone and don’t already have a laptop, you may want to consider using your tablet or o phone to DJ on. Thanks to great app development and the use of dongles, this isn’t as gimmicky as it may first seem! Mobile DJ’ing now offers a lot of performance for very little money. As you can imagine, this isn’t aimed for DJ’ing in the bars and clubs but it’s a great way to get started!
Algoriddim DJ has long been the stand out application for DJ’ing on an iOS device. With a long list of supported controllers that can be plugged in with an adaptor, Algoriddim can be used either for free or unlocked for a small monthly fee. The real stand out feature for most users is the Spotify integration with Algoriddim currently being the only platform that can DJ the songs streamed directly from the service. A real bonus for those beginner DJ’s who don’t have a large music collection.
We recommend pairing Algoriddim with the fantastic Pioneer DDJ 400, a beginner based controller that costs around £250. The DDJ 400 is plug and play with Algoriddim with minimal fuss setting up.
Unlike the smaller DDJ 200 controller, the 400 features an onboard soundcard which makes plugging into speakers and headphones a straight forward process. It’s worth remembering that the DDJ 400 also unlocks the Pioneer Rekordbox laptop software, so should you wish to progress on you won’t need to reinvest in a new controller!
Pioneer DJ recently updated the WeDJ application with the release of the DDJ-200. A tiny controller with no audio connections, the controller connects to your device via Bluetooth and uses the iPad/iPhones, headphone port to output audio. As many people will already know, the latest iOS devices don’t carry a headphone port, so get used to carrying dongles plus a battery pack to power the controller too! Despite its fiddly cable management, the DDJ 200 offers the layout and image of the bigger Pioneer devices and the portability of the controller is great!
We really like the WeDJ app too with its intuitive phrase sync tool to help beginners not only keep their beatmatching tight, but stop them from the dread vocal clash too! On top of that, the application allows streaming from Beatport Link and Soundcloud GO you also don’t need a large music library to get started! Unfortunately, the WeDJ application only works with the DDJ 200 or WeGO 4 and out of the two we could only recommend the 200!
DJ’ing with a laptop
If you have a laptop, your choices are much wider. The leading three software platforms are currently Rekordbox, Serato and Traktor. All three are advanced software with many performance features.
Serato offers a free version called Serato DJ Lite that can be used with cheaper beginner controllers free of charge. Some of the more advanced features have been removed to make the experience easier to understand. Set up is very simple, just plug in the controller and you’re away. The software also allows DJ’s to stream direct from Tidal or Soundcloud Go, which is great for DJ’s who don’t have a large music collection.
The Hercules DJ Starlight Control, is one of the cheapest and smallest Serato controllers we have ever used. At just £70, this controller won’t break the bank and is small enough to travel in your backpack for on the go mixing. The drawbacks of its size, however, are the lack of full EQ and small jog wheels. That said, the unique LED underlighting that flashes in time with the beats and phrases is a great learning tool for beginners and a feature we’d love to see implemented on more controllers!
Other devices to consider with Serato include the Pioneer DDJ-SB3. It features great build quality and a unique pad scratch feature which allows you to have DJ Jazzy Jeff scratch on your hot cues, a great tool for beginners who want to learn to scratch! The club-style layout and solid Pioneer DJ build quality have helped the SB3 become one of the best selling controllers for Serato DJ Light and we can see why!
Rekordbox DJ doesn’t offer a stripped-down version for free. However, you can unlock the software for free by plugging in a variety of controllers. Pioneer DJ has included everything from the DDJ-200, a product built for DJ’ing with mobile phones, to the DDJ-1000 which is a professional club controller. The advantage of this is that you can access all of the performance features within Rekordbox straight away, however, this can also lead to a lot of confusion and distraction with beginner DJs.
It’s worth remembering that you can only use Pioneer DJ hardware with Rekordbox DJ too, which although some of the best controllers on the market are also quite expensive compared to rivals. The fantastic DDJ-400 (featured earlier in the Algorddim section) at £249 is the pick of the bunch with small form factor, good performance features and club derived layout.
Native Instruments have two versions of Traktor available, with a Traktor 2 being free of charge and aimed at beginners. Available for iPad and computer, it is currently supported by the Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3. The controller is really well built for the price but unfortunately, we feel the software has been a bit left behind the competition with no high-resolution display offerings and a lackluster library management system.
Traktor does feature some of the best sounding effects however and thanks to its advanced remix and stem decks, it’s the choice of many house and techno DJ’s around the world. If you’re hoping to progress into this style of DJ, starting with Trakor maybe the best move for yourself. With the full professional software included with the entry-level controller, you can grow into the software as your skills progress!
Why Buy New?
With beginner controllers starting from £70 and ranging all the way up to around £300, there’s a strong argument that there’s better value for money on the second-hand market. Intermediate and professional controllers from brands such as Pioneer DJ, Denon DJ, and Native Instruments can be picked up for a lot less than their original RRP.
Bigger controllers bring with them a more professional connection with XLR master outs and TRS booth connections allowing you to use the controller in more professional settings and develop your skill further. We had a look at our local second-hand shop plus online auction sites plus eBay and gumtree and found a variety of mid to high range controllers at similar prices to their beginner counterparts.
If you are serious about wanting to take your DJ’ing further and don’t want to be held back in your progression by the limitations of smaller controllers, looking on the second-hand market might be the right move for you.
Just be careful that you check the usual weak points in the controller such as cue buttons, faders, and USB ports and if required, ensure you get the serial number for any software that might be required.
Wanting to take your DJ’ing to the next level?
We offer a fantastic range of DJ courses on all the platforms mentioned above, here are some of our best selling courses!
Rekordbox – Beginner Online DJ CourseUSD $125.00
Rekordbox – Intermediate Online DJ CourseUSD $125.00
The Complete Online Scratching CourseUSD $170.00
Rekordbox – Advanced Online DJ CourseUSD $125.00
Serato DJ – Intermediate Online DJ CourseUSD $125.00
Serato DJ – Beginner Online DJ CourseUSD $125.00